Just as with any home- or office-based job or responsibility, having the right tools can make carrying out any time management plan easier. Not only will these tools help you save time, they can also help to keep you focused on your newly formed time management plan.
The first tool that any effective time management plan should include is good time tracking software. These types of software packages allow you to track your time precisely as you move from project to project. This feature makes it possible for you to manage your time more efficiently and to determine which projects require the most of your time.
There are numerous types of time tracking software currently on the market. The ones that we will explore, however, are easy to learn, run on windows, and include extra reporting features.
- Time Writer Time Tracking Software. This software allows you to track your time via an on-screen scheduler. The entry screen consists of a weekly grid displaying hourly entry areas. The benefit from this type of screen is that entries can be made quickly and without much effort. Another benefit to this software is that aside from the time tracking feature, it also offers a great report compiling function.
- TraxTime Time Tracking Software. This software contains another simple to use time tracking system thanks to its “punch clock” type feature. With this type of entry system, adding start and stop times is quick and easy. This software also includes a memo feature, a customizable report feature, and the reports can be viewed in a wider variety of formats.
- Track-It Light Time Tracking Software. This software is unique in that it offers a variety of time entry methods. Using this feature, entrepreneurs can experiment with different methods until they find the one that works best for their tasks and their system. Another great feature of this software is its ability to handle multiple projects. This feature can come in handy as you work to combine your numerous responsibilities. But, maybe best of all, this software is relatively inexpensive and does not require the large amount of computer resources that most time tracking software systems do.
- Responsive Time Logger Time Tracking Software. This software is similar to the others in that it easily and efficiently allows you to track your time. It does, however, contain two unique features that may cause it to stand out from its competition. One is the drag and drop feature that allows you to customize on-screen reports. The other is its Palm O/S interface that allows you to track your time even when you are away from your computer.
- Prof Clock Pro Time Tracking SoftwareThis time management software contains all of the basic features of the other examples –time tracking, expense management features, and customizable reports- plus, it can be used by multiple users. If you have hired an intern or family members as an assistant, this feature may become very valuable to you.
With the great number of time tracking software packages to choose from it is best to start simple until you become more accustom to their uses. Then, when you have a better idea of what features you will use the most and what type of entry system you prefer, you can upgrade if you need to. And, as your business grows and changes, so will your time tracking needs.
With a good time tracking tool in your time management arsenal, it is now time to explore the use of some other tools, namely Day Timers and calendars.
Day Timers and Calendars
While time tracking software can help you monitor the time that you spend completing certain tasks, tools such as Day Timers and calendars can help you plan that time in advance. These tools are necessary when using the schedule that we talked about and devised in chapter 6. The key is to get that same schedule organized in three distinct ways- with a Day Timer, a calendar, and a “to do” list. Since the Day Timer and calendar are similar, we will explore those first. In the next section we will tackle the in and outs of “to do” lists.
Although it may seem repetitive at first glance, any successful time management plan really needs to utilize both a Day Timer and a calendar. The calendar will soon become your master planner, and your Day Timer will become your daily planner and the container for your “to do” list.
Let’s start out discussion with calendars. It doesn’t really matter which type of calendar you choose, however, you should pick one that contains large enough spaces in each square to
hold multiple entries and notes. To use your calendar efficiently start by importing the tasks from the schedule that you completed earlier.
Since your Day Timer will contain all of the detailed information from your schedule, you do not need to make entries on your calendar like sort incoming mail at 2 p.m. You do, however, need to enter all meetings, appointments, time sensitive report running, and major deadlines.
For example, your meeting with a client at 9 a.m. on Monday, your 10 a.m. Tuesday appointment with the web designer, and your 5 p.m. deadline on Friday for advertising bids should all be included on your calendar.
Your calendar is also the place to add entries regarding entire days that need to be devoted to conferences, large computer projects, and personal events such as family dinners and birthday parties.
Since you will be recording both personal and professional entries on the same calendar, it can help if you start color-coding these entries. For example, you can record all professional entries in red or black ink Red ink can be used to denote outside engagements, and black ink can be reserved for engagements that will take place at your office or home. Then, blue ink can be used to denote all personal entries. By using this color-coding system you can more readily grasp the extent and nature of your commitments with a single glance.
Once you have entered every appropriate schedule entry onto your calendar, it is time to break out your Day Timer.
When scheduling with your Day Timer your objective is more complex. Your calendar entries were made in order to guide your general schedule for the month and provide you with a master plan. Your Day Timer entries, however, will be used to guide your efforts on a weekly and daily schedule.
Using the same type of color-coding that you used with your calendar, begin entering your tasks into your Day Timer. However, this time you not only want to include more detail, but also specific time allotments that you have determined are necessary for the completion of each task.
For example, when entering the 10 a.m. appointment on Tuesday with your web designer block out the hours between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., or however much time you will need to complete the appointment and travel to and from it. You also need to include information such as the web designer’s phone number, address, and directions to the meeting.
By making detailed entries such as these in your Day Timer you can make sure that your time schedule is efficiently planned and avoid searching for supporting information each time that you prepare to move on to the next scheduled task.
Continue adding items from your calendar and schedule to your Day Timer until each day is organized and each task is assigned its own time slot. At this point, you still need to exclude “to do” list activities. Those items will be addressed later. For now just continue filling your Day Timer with the above information.